The Basic Styles of Wrestling

Two basic styles of amateur wrestling are generally employed around the world: freestyle and Greco-Roman. Other forms of wrestling are common within different cultures. Amateur wrestling is highly popular in the United States in colleges and universities, secondary schools, and athletic clubs. In addition to national championship matches, thousands of regional and local tournaments are held each year.

Olympic Wrestling The basic rules and scoring procedures for freestyle and Greco- Roman are the same, as determined by the Fédération Internationale de la Lutte Amateur (FILA), the international wrestling federation. Olympic-style wrestling bouts consist of a one-period, 5-minute match. A match is completed if a wrestler scores a fall, or if at the end of regulation, one wrestler has scored more points. Under current rules, if neither wrestler scores at least three points in the five minutes allotted, the wrestlers must go into an overtime period of a maximum of three minutes. If neither wrestler has scored three points at the end of the overtime, or if the bout is still tied, the officials determine the winner. The points awarded for the various scoring maneuvers in wrestling (takedown, reversal, escape, exposure) are the same in both freestyle and Greco-Roman wrestling.

Freestyle Wrestling

The rules of freestyle wrestling permit an athlete to use his entire body in competition, allowing a greater variety of holds than in the Greco-Roman style. Holds below the waist and the use of the legs are permitted. In the 1990s, the United States became one of the leading freestyle wrestling nations in the world, winning its first-ever team title at the 1993 Freestyle World Championships. Previously the sport was dominated for many years by the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR). Freestyle is the most popular style in the world, with more nations participating in this form of wrestling at the annual world championships than in Greco-Roman.

Women’s freestyle wrestling is a growing sport around the world. A world championship for women was created in the 1980s, and an increasing number of nations field women’s wrestling teams each year.

 Greco-Roman Wrestling   

Greco-Roman wrestling is especially popular in Europe, but it is practiced throughout the world. The distinctive feature of Greco-Roman wrestling is that contestants must apply all holds above the waist, and the use of the legs in scoring or defending is prohibited. Tripping, tackling, and using the legs to secure a hold are not permitted. Greco-Roman wrestlers begin their bout in a standing position, and attempt to either throw their opponent to the mat or to use holds to drop them to the mat.


United States College Wrestling 

Collegiate-style wrestling, also known as folkstyle or scholastic, is a form of wrestling native to the United States. This style of wrestling is practiced in U.S. secondary schools, colleges and universities, and in many wrestling clubs. One feature that makes collegiate-style wrestling different from freestyle is that a wrestler must hold the opponent’s shoulders to the mat for one second to earn a fall. Collegiate-style wrestling rewards wrestlers with “near falls,” worth two or three points, for holding an opponent close to his or her back. Collegiate wrestlers earn credit for “riding time,” or time during which they control their opponent on the mat. “Riding time” points are unique to college wrestling and do not play a factor in the high school sport.

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